Former Liberal candidate dropped from party amid controversy says he'll sit as MP after winning Toronto riding
TORONTO -- The former Liberal candidate elected in Spadina- Fort York has confirmed he intends to represent the riding in Ottawa despite calls for him to step aside after a past allegation of sexual assault came to light.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Kevin Vuong acknowledged that “not everyone is happy” he was elected.
“On Monday, Canadians across the country cast their votes. Not everyone will have received the result they wanted, but everyone is counting on those elected to devote themselves to the service of everyone. That is what I intend to do,” he wrote.
“I appreciate that not everyone is happy with my election, and I very much understand why it is different in my case. For those who feel this way, I understand the source of your doubts and I will work hard to earn your trust.”
Just days before the election, the Toronto Star revealed that Vuong, a naval reservist and business owner, had faced a sexual assault charge in 2019, a charge that was later dropped by the Crown.
Following news of the allegations, the Liberal Party asked Vuong to “pause” his campaign and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau later confirmed that if elected, Vuong would not be part of the Liberal caucus.
Last week, the Liberals said they had no knowledge of the charge and vowed to improve the candidate vetting process in the future.
Vuong narrowly defeated NDP candidate Norm di Pasquale, a Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee, with about 38 per cent of the vote.
Vuong has denied the allegations against him, adding that “allegations of sexual assault are a serious matter, deserving of more discussion than this statement can provide.”
“For these reasons, I intend to address them at a later date more wholly in a dedicated forum. For now, it is necessary to clarify that we were involved in a casual but intimate relationship. I understood everything to be consensual, and was always respectful of her boundaries,” he wrote.
“I do not take these allegations against me lightly.”
The statement comes one day after Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca urged Vuong to “examine his conscience” and do “the right thing” by stepping down.
"I don't think Kevin can responsibly serve in the capacity as an MP for that community, given the circumstances of the allegation,” Del Duca, who campaigned with Vuong before the allegations came to light, told CTV News Toronto. “So I do hope that he does the right thing.”
After being turfed by the Liberals, Vuong will be forced to sit as an independent in the House of Commons.
Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Spadina Fort-York on city council, also slammed Vuong for taking the post.
"Kevin Vuong did not earn the right to represent our Spadina-Fort York community. He should do the honourable and right thing and step aside," Cressy wrote on Twitter.
"If he wants to sit as an independent MP, he should campaign for the job as one."
Nate Erskine-Smith, the Liberal incumbent who won in Beaches- East York on Monday night, also urged Vuong to decline the job.
"One earns trust by acting with integrity," he wrote on Twitter. "In this case, that means stepping down."
The runner up, di Pasquale, said a byelection should be held to determine who should be the next Member of Parliament for Spadina- Fort York.
"The truth is that Kevin Vuong has not earned the right to serve this community. And while I did not win, he forfeited his right to stand as our MP," di Pasquale said in a statement posted on Twitter.
"In the days ahead we must all demand a by-election to determine a new choice. A better choice. Our community deserves no less."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello